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October 2020

September is National Cholesterol Education Awareness Month. High cholesterol usually doesn't have any symptoms. As a result, many people do not know that their cholesterol levels are too high and are putting them at an increased risk for heart disease and stroke. However, your doctor can do a simple blood test to check your cholesterol. It is also important to remember that in addition to older adults, children and young adults can have high cholesterol too.

What is cholesterol? - Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance found in your body and many foods. Your body needs cholesterol to function normally and makes all that you need. However, if you have too much cholesterol it can build up in your arteries and after a while, these deposits narrow your arteries putting you at risk for disease.

How often should you have your cholesterol checked? - The National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) recommends that adults aged 20 years or older have their cholesterol checked every 5 years.

Preventive guidelines for cholesterol screening among young adults differ, but experts agree on the need to screen young adults who have other risk factors for coronary heart disease: obesity, smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes, and family history

Can children and adolescents have high cholesterol? - Yes. High cholesterol can develop in early childhood and adolescence, and your risk increases as your weight increases. It is important for children over 2 years of age to have their cholesterol checked, if they are overweight/obese, have a family history of high cholesterol, a family history of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, or certain chronic conditions (chronic kidney disease, chronic inflammatory diseases, congenital heart disease, and childhood cancer survivorship).

If you have high cholesterol, what can you do to lower it? - Your doctor may prescribe medications to treat your high cholesterol. In addition; you can lower your cholesterol levels through lifestyle changes:

  • Low-fat and high-fiber food (Eat more fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, and whole grains).

  • For adults, getting at least 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate or 1 hour and 15 minutes of vigorous physical activity a week. For those aged 6-17, getting 1 hour or more of physical activity each day.

  • Maintain a healthy weight.

  • Don't smoke or quit if you smoke.

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